Former downtown Marietta restaurateur Jody John Wilson, 44, was sentenced to a year in prison, with credit for six months already served, and 10 years of probation.
Wilson, a resident of Woodstock who owned the Starlight Café on the Marietta Square, was also ordered to pay restitution of $7,500 to the city of Canton and Cherokee County.
One round of counts is for the Jan. 2 incident, and the second is for the May 7 incident in Marietta that resulted in Wilson’s arrest. Both county cases were consolidated for the plea hearing Friday.
Wilson’s attorney, Roger Curry of Marietta, said his client made the phony threats to avoid the real estate foreclosure sales on the steps of the courthouse in Cherokee, which would evict his family from their home.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Don Geary said Wilson, after being arrested, admitted to police he was responsible for the threats, and called Cobb’s courthouse to throw investigators off.
“I would like to apologize to Cobb County, the city of Marietta and the folks on the Square,” Wilson said in the courtroom before he began to cry.
Wilson paused before continuing to talk about the
embarrassment he has caused his family.
Originally arrested on charges of terroristic threats and acts, preventing or disrupting lawful meetings, false statements and obstruction, Geary said Friday’s counts were about being more specific than general.
Geary said more charges would have amounted to double jeopardy, and because Wilson knew his threat was fabricated, the transmitting a false public alarm statute was “directly on point.”
The facts of the case
As Geary read through the facts of the case in court, Wilson slightly nodded in agreement several times.
At 10:55 a.m. May 7, Wilson called Cobb County 911 and said there was a “chemically-based bomb outside the Cobb County Courthouse.”
On Jan. 2 at 10:18 a.m., a Cobb warrant accuses Wilson of calling 911, stating he “buried a bomb outside the Cobb County Courthouse.”
Geary said it was the meticulous work by the Cobb Sheriff’s Office that apprehended Wilson three hours after he made the May 7 call from a pay phone at the Citgo gas station on Roswell Street, less than a mile from the Square.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, all terms of the agreement had been negotiated, except if Wilson would be considered by the court as a first-time offender, which Geary told the judge was a “matter of serious disagreement.”
As a first-time offender, Wilson could have the bomb threat infractions removed from his record after successfully completing probation.
Curry said that distinction for his client would help him get employment after being released from prison.
Geary argued the charges represent two events at two locations that had trials underway, shut down operations for hours, evacuated more than 100 people including prisoners, and resulted in Cherokee County calling in the Canton Police Department for support.
Geary said Wilson only showed concern for himself and got away with the first bomb threat in January.
“But for us finding him, there would have likely been a third,” Geary said.
Judge William “Bo” McClain came from Douglas County for the hearing after all the Cobb County Superior Court judges recused themselves.
McClain said Wilson could have faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with each count allotting for five.
McClain said he would have given a much stiffer sentence in Douglas County, but as a visiting judge he would respect Cobb’s culture of justice.
“I find this is a lenient sentence, it is a merciful sentence,” McClain said before denying Wilson the first-offendder status.
The café owner, family man
Wilson was apprehended by police on May 7 in front of his wife, Lidya, at their restaurant on Roswell Street, The Starlight Café.
Jim Duvlaris, known to the Cobb community as Jimmy the Greek, has owned the building where The Starlight Café operated since the 1980s.
Duvlaris said his relationship with Wilson was mostly professional, but he knew him to be a good father who coached his daughter’s softball team.
The Wilsons have two children, 12 and 5.
Duvlaris said Wilson had a day of bad judgment and made a mistake.
That mistake has resulted in the loss of the family’s home in Woodstock, with his family moving out while Wilson sat in the Cobb County jail.
The Starlight Café business changed hands two weeks ago, and the new manager did not want to speak about Wilson’s guilty plea or reopening the lunchtime restaurant across from the courthouse.
Wilson’s wife was not at the court proceeding because she was at an auction trying to buy a vehicle after their car had recently been repossessed, Curry said.
Wilson, who served for four years in the Navy before being honorably discharged, was well known to sheriff’s deputies and court personnel.
The judge told Wilson his biggest supporters were the ones most affected by the bomb threats.
But, if Wilson does his time, pays his debt and abides by the law when released, he will get the forgiveness of the community, McClain said.
“Mr. Wilson, it is just stuff, you can get it back,” McClain said.